Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Grading parents.

A state lawmaker in Florida wants to create a rating system for parents of schoolchildren, according to a piece by Leslie Postal and Denise-Marie Balona in the Orlando Sentinel. Is this woman serious? Giving parents an actual grade on whether they measure up to schools’ expectations? So that schools can ... what?

Look, I am terribly passionate about the degree to which parents matter in their children’s education. Kids come to kindergarten with massive gaps attributable to their home lives, and it makes me ill to see what passes for parenting of many children I have spent time watching on the job. I do think it is crazy to pretend that these deficiencies don’t matter, and that making up for them doesn’t require huge investments. But guess what? Schools have to educate kids no matter what—or else why even have schools? Schools are graded because a governmental entity has jurisdiction over them; this is called accountability. Outside of abuse and neglect and truancy, nobody has jurisidiction over parents, and thus they can’t be held accountable for things we agree matter but that aren’t the law.

Possible outcomes of such a policy: Home-school relationships that are even more strained, if not combative. Schools given what amounts to a handy excuse for not doing better by kids. What good could come of this? The parent who doesn’t bring her children to school or feed them breakfast or return a teacher’s phone call is not likely to be shamed by getting a D on her kid’s report card. If she even reads it.


  1. So, what I hear you saying is, we know poverty makes it nearly impossible for some kids to achieve high test scores (accountability), but we should act like poverty doesn't really exist because we can't, or won't, do anything about it.

    Do I have that about right?

  2. wow... really?

    What if it shamed one parent into putting a hot meal into their child and picking up the phone to talk with a teacher? Just one.

    If a parent isn't going to take their child's education seriously putting them behind the 8 ball to begin with and the child isn't doing well because they inherently have no desire to learn where does this put the children who go to school prepared to learn? Children who feel ashamed of their scholastic abilities often act out putting further strain on class rooms. If that child is taking away time from a child who is there to learn what's the point of schools?

    When I was younger and lived in a poverty stricken area it felt like I was always in the "bad" class. I was always the one kid who didn't want to hear the teacher trying to discipline and wanted to focus on the subject at hand. That experience made me wonder why we had school in the first place. By the time I had gotten out of that area and my mother was able to put me into a low end (and religious even though we were not) private school, I was so far behind I had to spend hours and hours at home to catch up. Not to mention having to go to a southern baptist school to learn about science and the financial burden it was on my mother, but that's what a good parent does when their child is suffering, no?

    I don't mean to go off on a personal rant on your blog but if we had this information combined with other information and could save one child from having to be in the "bad class". I don't care who it offends, who it makes nervous, who feels ashamed etc. When we allow situations like this to happen without holding the parents accountable then I ask you, what is the point of sending my child to public school?

  3. I don't believe in policies based on "if it just changed one person's behavior." I think the potential negatives here far outweigh the positives.

    My point was that giving parents a grade does not actually hold them accountable. It just rates them—which is different.